The Eye of the Fish

July 11, 2009

Rubbish on TV

Rubbish on TV? “Nothing new there!” And what’s that all got to do with Architecture and Design in Wellington? I hear you whisper from the back row of the cheap seats.
Well, there’s an advert on TV that has sure got the local (and national) architects riled. Amongst others, to be sure: but this one takes a cake. NZ house building company GJ Gardner has been prominently featuring a TV ad where the provocative line “What do you do if your architect keeps blowing your budget?” is answered by an effete little man saying “Get another one – or tear your hair out!” – presumably he is meant to be a designery-type employee of GJ Gardner. Apart from his baldy head, silly spectacles, flowery shirt, and sneery grimace, there is nothing to give it away that he might be an architect – but he does fulfill many of the stereotypes.
Architects do come in other shapes, sexes, sizes, and shirt colour you know! It’s always interesting when TV tries to depict an “artitet” – heat pumps have either a boring ex-cricketer or an architecty looking bald dude speaking very, very, quietly while stroking a cat – but it is seldom that an advert takes a direct broadside at the architects and even says they have their own architects. And that is the bit that has really got the Architects to boiling point. You see: GJ Gardner don’t employ any architects, and in NZ, it is illegal to call yourself an architect unless you actually are one. So why doesn’t anyone do anything about it? Slap them? Prosecute them? Boil them alive in cat soup?

Back in the UK, where it is also illegal to call yourself an architect unless you actually are one, the ARB there actively pursues and prosecutes people who naughtily call themselves architects – investigated 180 cases, with 3 successful prosecutions in the last year, but also helping remove 865 people in the Yellow Pages who were wrongly categorising themselves as architects. Seems that they have some teeth, and like to use them. Back here, the RAB seems weak and ineffectual by comparison, and the NZIA even more so. Probably nothing will happen. Probably, and I’m going out on a limb here, probably no one who was in line for an architect designed home would bother with a bunch like GJ Gardner. But really, who would ever know the RAB or the NZIA exist, unless they are already a member of one or the other organisation. They have virtually no public presence, and with no teeth, they are next to useless.

I’m more annoyed by continual advertising like the moronic yelling on Noel Leeming adverts, the thumping screaming on the Harvey Norman adverts, of the nutty woman on Big Save furniture, the whining high pitch of Briscoes, and the stupidity of drunken youths crashing their car and talking about how “That Shelley, she really likes you, you should ask her out” when clearly we all wish that he would just hurry up and die for drink-driving so stupidly. Most of all though I get annoyed when the Dom Post proudly strings up on the front page that Robert McNamara “the Architect of the Vietnam War” has died. He’s not an architect! Never was! He is a War Criminal!

There is a difference.

11 - 07 - 09

The previous GJ Gardner ad had these two painful characters walking around a (ugly, brink monstrosity) house and then interviewing the GJ Gardner “architect”.

Turns out said “architect” was not an Architect at all (you probably could have told that by the fact she almost started crying when talking about clerestory windows and the the great light and what a wonderful house to design for the clients – pah! – a real architect does that stuff every day, she gave herself away as an architectural designer….), anyhoo….

Apparently the NZRAB complained about the ad (not sure who too – GJ Gardner? Broadcasting Standards?) and GJ Gardner took the previous ad of the air.

This one is seen as a response to that – a bit of one-upmanship for getting the other ad removed.

Both the NZRAB and the NZIA (I think) have complained about this ad and are in “discussions” with GJ Gardner.

(and he is a silly little effete man… a stupid little ponce…. a terrible stereotype….)

11 - 07 - 09

Actually, I quite like his shirt – it’s bright and gay, just like him. Certainly better than the boring old stereotype clothing as modelled by so many of your architectural brethren:

60 MPa
11 - 07 - 09

When I see a pigeon-chested guy with trendy square glasses wearing a black poloneck driving a diesel-powered Peugeot coming on site trying not to get his chisel toed shoes dirty, I tend to make one assumption.

Haven’t seen the ad ( Or any ads since Myth TV does Tivo for less than half price) but agree that GJ Gardner pack more ugliness in per cubic metre than most.

11 - 07 - 09

60 – you must be working for the wrong people. The architects I’ve met love getting in and getting dirty. But tell me more about this Myth TV thing? Anything would be worth it to get rid of the crap adverts….

60 MPa
11 - 07 - 09

Tivo (international mainly US) and MySky (here) are PVR*s – a fat hard drive and a box that records what you want. Linux freeware have developed the program so if you buy a HDD then a videocard and install the freeware you have a PVR for not much.
If you abhor Micro$oft or don’t mind a bit of tinkering to install ubuntu (linux for non-geeks like me).
Good Tivo features are-
Start watching the show 10mins after it starts and FForward through the ads then catch up with it live
“Season Ticket” – with a few clicks program it to record an entire series
Expandable – can record multiple channels at once

This is international and probably best on an uncapped connection but as this permeates through, more people will be able to “graze” – eg record a series on US PBS on great architects and skip all the ads and the ones ya don’t like – take a still image (copyright issues abided by, naturally) of a building from your favourite angle, save moments of digital content and use them to display effects you are trying to achieve to clients…

The kids can have one in their room and you can have another in the lounge running off the same HDD. Memory is cheap, bandwith is getting cheaper.

*Personal Video Recorder

12 - 07 - 09

Interesting how seamlessly a thread which starts as a protest about threats to the standards and earning power of one group of intellectual property workers can turn into a step-by-step guide to depriving another group of theirs…

There is no way to abide by copyright issues while copying and reusing a film maker’s footage in a presentation to your clients.

12 - 07 - 09

what if you acknowledge the origin of the clip? Is that enough? Or if not, then how are they meant to get a cut of the money from that? Are we really meant to take all our own photos ? Practicalities exist!

60 MPa
12 - 07 - 09

We don’t want to open the floodgates for architects and designers to copy each others ideas or even be “inspired” by others with such technology because we know that they’ve never done that until now, have they?

Whether or not you agree with the technology it is here and it’s not going away.

If you were to operate such a set-up and use it for private viewing only, you would be exercising a personal choice to not break the law. Other people make other choices.

I heard (Nat Torkington, I think) on the radio the other day about a new smartphone app that uses the GPS unit in one’s phone to look up all the tagged photos on flickr that display the same area tags. You could stand on a street corner and get lots of different views of the same area eg see around corners, look back down side streets, find out what the view is like from the top of a huge flight of steps, etc

The point is that we are swimming in an increasingly thickening digital soup and the sooner we recognise that, the better we will be able to navigate our way around the water.

Seamonkey Madness
13 - 07 - 09

The GJ Gardner presenter did a wonderful job co-presenting the Queens of the Whole Universe drag pageant the other week. So I’m told.

Good on him.
Although he doesn’t exactly inspire me to buy one of their homes…I don’t think anything could.

13 - 07 - 09

The baldy Mitsubishi guy used to be “Otis” on Shortland Str. years ago. He had hair then.

13 - 07 - 09

Before we swim off into the soupy seas of relativism, I should clarify the point I raised. There is no way to copy someone else’s imagery and use it in the course of your own business (“… use them to display effects you are trying to achieve to clients…”) without infinging copyright. Copyright is about exactly that – copying – and it is particularly relevant when there is a professional transaction involved.

Arguably your example would infringe two people’s copyright – the architect who is “inspiring” you and the film maker who created the image which might convince your client to engage you.

While we all have to acknowledge that digital technology makes it ever easier to break the copyright law, it isn’t an option to pretend it has ceased to exist. All kinds of knowledge workers owe a shared duty to each other to think a bit harder about how we are going to proceed into the digital reefs.

13 - 07 - 09

Starkive, as we do indeed surf those “soupy seas of relativism”, I reckon it’s not as simple and as black and white as you make out. And there is a world of difference of course, between that of film/movies, and architecture. Each and every single frame of a movie is attributable with copyright, but a building is not a similar matter. The actual plans and drawings themselves are subject to the laws of copyright, but the end result – the building – is rarely so strongly tied up in law. Even more so are photographs of said building. And it gets even more dodgy and grey around the edges when it comes to a photo posted online of that building.

Is it really the case that a photo of the Majestic tower (say) holds copyright over that image, whereas the actual building does not – ie anyone can photograph it, and reproduce that image, while the architect never gets a cent?

There was a case last year that was interesting, with a building fragment as sculpture in an Auckland park – Ponsonby I think – and somewhere like Glassons or Hallensteins – and the sculptor sued (or at least yelled very loudly) that their intellectual copyright was being usurped. I can’t ever see the same happening to an image of a building you design.

That’s the thing with movies you see: they’re all so Black and White. But architecture is really an array of colour….

14 - 07 - 09

A film director, whose name I forget, once said “Life is in colour, but black and white is more realistic.”

Sorry for getting off the topic…

14 - 07 - 09

Where’s the post that was up this morning?
The one with the leaked photos?

Has Maximus been a naughty fishy?

14 - 07 - 09

Interesting question about copyright in an image of an object being more clearly defined than that pertaining to the object itself. In the case of film there is a copyright distinction (essentially played out in terms of the length of the rights) between actualities – films made simply by recording what is – and creative works – films where a film maker has genuinely created intellectual property. Perhaps it arises from the differing business models where an architect might expect to be paid a fee for services upon completion, while a film maker might have to slog on, selling and re-selling the work over time.

Any architects out there working for royalties and residuals?

My point was that in those salty seas, there are a whole lot of subtleties and reasonable expectations which are too easily obliterated by powerful technology. I wanted to induce a little empathy for the film maker who might like to help architects in their work of convincing clients, but who might also like to be asked.

I repeat: just because you can, just because others do – doesn’t mean you should.

15 - 07 - 09

Starkive – i’m interested in this matter of copyright – the whole thing perplexes me.

Say that I’m doing a presentation for a company, and want to show a 15 second clip from a 2 hour long film. While I agree that the film maker holds the copyright, and therefore deserves to get recognition and possibly even some form of payment, how does that feed back to the film maker?

As architects, we tend to only do one-offs, with no repeats. There is a attitude that we should be getting more than that, but it’s difficult to police and impossible to get anyone else to agree to. The argument goes like this: as architects for a client we get a percentage fee for designing a building based on construction value. The client later sells the site and building, for a far higher value than the sum of its parts. As architects, we’ve been instrumental in getting the client that increase in value – but we don’t get a cent.

The copyright for the building resides with the client, as they were the commissioner of the works. We may, if we remembered to sign the right bit of paper, retain copyright over the actual plans and drawings. But in reality, and in monetary terms, we get nothing.

15 - 07 - 09

mobsta – no, just felt it wasn’t right and needed revising.

Now, remind me – was it you that I had a bet with, about a year ago? I can’t even remember what about. But I think you owe me a beer. Any idea what we were betting on? And whether I’ve won yet?

15 - 07 - 09

are you also Rondo?

I had a bet with Rondo 288 days ago…. (30 Sept 08).
The bet was – are things going to be better or worse in a years time?
My view was the affirmitive.
Rondo’s was the negative.

I think I lose, no matter what happens between now at 30 Setember 2009….
Rondo – are you out there?

15 - 07 - 09

I think I’m with Starkive.
We are all out there earning a crust.

As an architect I would not be too happy if I designed a house for a client, who built my design and then the client sold the plans (which they do own – for that site) to another person who built the same house on another site.
I would be jumping up and down.
(The key sentence above is “for that site”… I wuld have recourse if the same building was built on another site).

This is similar to the what Starkive is describing above.
Say I use a film image or clip that wins me a job and fees and a livelihood. I have used something that someone else has poured the heart and soul and resources and money into. Fo no return to the film maker.
That is not right.

“It doesn’t mean you should….”

15 - 07 - 09

“…The argument goes like this: as architects for a client we get a percentage fee for designing a building based on construction value. The client later sells the site and building, for a far higher value than the sum of its parts. As architects, we’ve been instrumental in getting the client that increase in value – but we don’t get a cent….”

I remember a project we did a number of years ago.
An alteration to a house here in Wellington.
We wanted work for the portfolio. Lower fees in thoswe days. We got screwed down by the client. We did the whole project for a $10,000 fee. For a years work! (Not full time work, but a lot of hours put in….)
This included difficult clients, documentation, site meetings and observation etc. The works.

Two weeks after the project was finished he ended up getting transferred to Auckland.

The contacted an agent who declared “I’ve got the perfect couple for this house!”
The house was now worth considerably more than teh purchase+alterations price.
The couple saw it that day. Fell in love with it. Paid over the top for it.

The client earnt a commission of $15,000.
For one days work.
No advertising. No marketing. Nothing.


15 - 07 - 09

didn’t check the last post.

The AGENT earnt a commission of $15,000.
Not the client – they just made a whopping profit!

15 - 07 - 09

Oh for goodness sakes!
I’ve just got home and reread my previous post.
It must have been a long day….

thoswe = those
the = they
teh = the
earnt = earned (there’s no such word for crissakes!)

… and no I am not going for the record for most consecutive posts….

60 MPa
16 - 07 - 09

If you use an image, give credit.
I agree not nicking the ideas of others, what I had in mind when I put that example was an architect using a still image to illustrate a point to a client about an effect they were trying to achieve, not an out-and-out rip-off.
Say it’s a public building and you were trying to mimic a feature to show a sense of place?

Transfield has a yard in Kingsford Smith St with an office that used to stand across the road from Te Papa – it has an awning with the same triangular shapes cut out to mimic the Papa – aside from mimicry being flattery it was just a laugh from an old car yard that stood opposite. (hat tip Tom Beard ex WellUrban – it’s on Flickr)

I doubt that Te Papa’s architect would take them to task for it, do you?

17 - 07 - 09

Mobsta – no wonder I couldn’t remember what it was about – wasn’t even my bet. And I wish you would win, because it would be nice to have some good cheery news. Damn winter – freezing cold. Must start working on next post.

60 – you get your stair case in? No broken eggs?

17 - 07 - 09

To get back on topic:
We got a newsletter from the NZRAB this morning. It included the following:

GJ Gardiner Homes
Recently you may have seen television advertisements from a building franchise GJ Gardner Homes. Many architects have been riled up about one of these advertisements denigrating architects and the NZIA has correctly taken that up with GJ Gardner Homes.

However, separately, NZRAB has been concerned that these advertisements create the impression that the designs on offer from GJ Gardner Homes are the work of architects when this might not be the case. Also, the GJ Gardner Homes website talked about “our architects” when discussing various designs. In the NZRAB data base no New Zealand architects have cited GJ Gardner Homes as their place of work.

I recently contacted GJ Gardner Homes and they have responded positively. The GJ Gardner Homes website now refers to “our designers”. GJ Gardner Homes has also agreed to review its television advertising and other marketing materials. GJ Gardner Homes makes the point that in many cases their designs have had input from architects. Their CEO writes: “Our franchise network do engage the services of registered architects on a contract basis to design homes for clients, or a special project they are endeavouring to win or, as I have recently experienced, a specific concept of a new offer/product they wish to explore as a niche market opportunity.”

So it does sounds like they are open and receptive to discussion about the use of the word Architect and their own advertising….

60 MPa
17 - 07 - 09

Good on the NZRAB – the professions have got to secure their qualifications from this sort of incursion from franchised eedjits. Unfortunately any fool can call themselves a builder (or underfloor insulation installer these days) so I’m starting to think that when the price of those monolithic cladding houses drops to section-plus-20k there might be a nice little earner in recladding them and onselling – just an idea.

Apropos of nothing here’s a tip for all of you out on the rounds – a practice in the insulation industry known as “fluffing”- they get the right insulation on site then delaminate it to look like it’s getting the coverage. If their batts/polyester do twice the job by being ripped so as to be half the thickness then the contractors get twice the profit.
Y’all may well be sharp to this one but it was new to me.

Maximus- I’m off that site now but yes, they corkscrewed that baby in and it’s impressive but please you guys – just cos CAD says you can make something curved and all parabolic stop and think of the poor bugger who’s gotta build it.
Dimensions, dimensions, dimensions.

5 - 10 - 09


In July, the NZIA lodged a formal complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority regarding a Television Commercial that was being screened by G J Gardner Homes. The Commercial directly compared the so called ‘bad’ experience a couple had with an Architect with the ‘apparent’ great one with G J Gardner Homes.

The NZIA objected that the Commercial was in breach of a number of Rules of the Advertising Code of Ethics and Guidelines. This was refuted by G J Gardner Homes.

After a lengthy process and a hearing at which the NZIA was in attendance, the Advertising Standards Complaints Board determined that the Commercial was in breach of Rule 9 of the Code of Ethics on Testimonials, and Guideline (b) of the Code of Comparative Advertising.

This was on the basis that there was no substantiation from G J Gardner Homes that the experience the ‘Proctors’ had with an Architect was typical and not exceptional. It also ruled that there was likelihood that the consumer could be misled by certain statements in the Commercial.

Decision: Complaint Upheld
John Albert
Professional Services Manager

5 - 10 - 09

Thanks Mobsta. Excellent news! Good to know the guardians of the good in advertising are on to it…

27 - 03 - 10

I am a pretend architect, or perhaps an architect’s groupie, I’m not sure. However, for the sake of my reason to google the bald guy from the G J ad I will reply.
He is not attractive, the girl looks like a McDonald’s worker. If the client wanted “normal looking actors, they should have made sure to “group test” the ad before release and see what a sample of folk thought. I aint about to hand over any Rutherfords for one those houses anyway.
GJ’s product is for plastic families with nice little jobs and pretty children.
Regardless of budget, it is always better to employ an architect when building, and that’s that. An architect withh save you money in more ways than one. They are powerful folk to have around the place. So, this creature, this bald man, with a white crackhead body, needs to go.

28 - 03 - 10

Glen – some would say your comments are both sexist and racist, although not homophobic, which would be another way of looking at the GJ Gardner folk.

I’m sure that the woman is not a McDonalds worker, and is probably thought of as quite a hottie – and this wee baldy man with a “white crackhead body” has been deliberately picked because he is a parody of an architect – baldy head so fashionable with the minimalist set, wonky squareish glasses so de rigeur with – well, with almost everyone nowadays, and loud shirt and no tie, signifying designery type who is confident in their own body, without having to wear a tie. On the other hand, his whiney demeanour marks him out as fairly obviously gay, or at least ultra camp, – and that’s also a fairly staple architectural characteristic as well.

Or, of course, the adverts makers are playing the counter culture game, and she is hte architect and he is just the whiney bitch sidekick. All of which would be most enjoyable if it were true: but maori architects are few, and women maori architects are – almost – or definitely? one of a kind.